Marchionne invites VW to dawn showdown as feud grows
Piech left and Marchionne: Their feud continues to fester.
PARIS (Bloomberg) -- Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, irritated by comments from Volkswagen AG executives, invited the German carmaker to a dawn showdown at the Paris auto show as tensions rise between the two companies.
VW Chief Financial Officer Hans Dieter Poetsch said late Wednesday that "especially carmakers in southern Europe" may have trouble surviving the crisis without government aid.
Stephan Gruehsem, VW's chief spokesman, said in July that Marchionne was not qualified to head the ACEA lobby group and said the German carmaker was prepared to leave the association.
"If Volkswagen, through its chief executive, thinks that it needs to do something, tell them to show up tomorrow morning at 7 o'clock at our stand," Marchionne told reporters.
Fiat will leave the organization "in protest" if necessary, he said.
VW CEO Martin Winterkorn accepted Marchionne's invitation and will attend Friday's ACEA meeting at Fiat's exhibition space, spokesman Eric Felber said, adding that Volkswagen "sticks to our statement" that Marchionne should step down.
The two automakers have also traded heated exchanges over Fiat's Alfa Romeo brand, with Marchionne insisting it's not for sale, and telling VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech "to go and sing somewhere else." Piech retorted at the German carmaker's evening reception Wednesday that VW "can wait" for Alfa.
Marchionne reiterated today the brand isn't for sale, then added, "Do I have to say it in German?"
Volkswagen, bolstered by sales in China and premium nameplates including Audi, is gaining share in the worst European car market in 17 years by offering discounts and financing packages its competitors in France and Italy can't match.
General Motors Co. said today "nobody" can make money in Europe with Fiat and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen striving to maintain customers with discounts of as much as 30 percent.
Marchionne, who is currently serving as the ACEA's rotating chairman, has been urging his European counterparts to come up with a comprehensive plan to cut overcapacity in the region, a move resisted by VW and the other German carmakers.
VW threatened to quit the organization after a New York Times article in July suggested that Marchionne blamed VW's pricing strategy for creating a "bloodbath" in Europe.
"I have no particular interest in continuing my role without the support of the board," Marchionne told reporters at the Paris show on Thursday. "But I also don't particularly give a flying hoot what the CFO or the head of the press office at Volkswagen thinks."
Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said Thursday that running the industry group is a bit of a thankless job during this crisis.
"I can understand the frustration of whoever is managing the ACEA by saying look, on top of my own problems, I have to deal with these problems," Ghosn said. "I'm very happy as long as it's not me," Ghosn replied with a laugh when asked who should be running the group.Contact Automotive News